Understanding Neurodivergence and Neurodiversity

umbrella brains
The following resource has been created by Dr Barbara Sandland, a neurodivergent post-doctoral researcher within the Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs Department. It aims to provide information about neurodivergence to support the inclusive culture and teaching available at University of Birmingham. Each link from this page will direct you to more information, including links to: websites, articles, blogs, podcasts and books.

Neurodivergence is a noun, it identifies a cognitive functioning that is considered different to the predominant neurotype. For a person to be classified as neurodivergent (adjective that describes people that have a neurodivergence) they must have a recognisable neurological difference, that is typically present from birth (although they may become aware of it at any stage of their life) and remains for the entirety of their lifespan. In a small number of cases neurodivergence can be acquired through trauma or injury, acquired neurodivergence would not be present from birth but remains life-long. By using the term neurodivergence, we recognise the principles of the Neurodiversity movement, that state neurological differences are a natural variant of humanity and while they are likely to require accommodations and support, they should not be viewed as a deficit to individual attainment.

The language surrounding neurodivergence is socially constructed, therefore our understanding of the term and the conditions that may fit within the definition will change in relation to culture, time, and space. The use of neurodivergence therefore, requires continued awareness that growing understanding and social developments may facilitate the inclusion of new conditions in the future. Based on this and our current understanding, the university categorises the following conditions as neurodivergent:

The use of the term ‘disorder’ does not match the principles of Neurodiversity, where possible words that reflect difference, instead of deficit are used. However, current diagnostic terms continue to use medicalised language, therefore there is a necessity to use such terms when listing diagnosis.



It is important to recognise that neurodivergence often co-occur, therefore students may be experiencing challenges and strengths associated with more than one neurological difference.

Universal Design and Reasonable Adjustments

All students benefit from universal design in our learning and teaching environments. For some students Reasonable Adjustments will also need to be planned via the Disability Service. A Reasonable Adjustment Plan (RAP) will be created and diseminated to all staff that work with the student.


Also in 'The Department of Disability Inclusion and Special Needs '